Friday, October 21, 2011

"And your little dog, too": Teal Strikes Back!

The Wicked Witch of the West: In Teal!

On doing a little digging, I discovered that I am far from the only one who has become sick and tired of the pink juggernaut that passes for "breast cancer awareness". I've included a link to an article by Gayle Sulik (which has links to other excellent commentaries) that explores, in incredible depth, the deeper financial issues of this modern-day marketing phenomenon. All this has led me to wonder what percentage of our donations actually end up funding breast cancer research.

The pink crusade has become wildly popular, saucy and "sexy" (not to mention headspinningly ubiquitous). In the name of being provocative, the movement is starting to use terms like "boobs" to show how unstuffy they are, how cool, and how they champion banishing the stigma around the disease. 

(Ovaries in teal!)
The assumption is that everyone is OK with this. But wait just a second. Does anyone think older women, grandmothers maybe, or even great-grandmothers (as I some day hope to be) would like their breasts referred to as "boobies"? What about going in for your mammogram and having the technician say to you, "OK, just put your booby in here"? It's ludicrous, and unfunny, and downright disrespectful. But if we dare to say anything about it, we violate the Pink Ribbon Code: we're just no fun! Don't we believe in the Cause?

I am beginning to read stories about women having surgery for ovarian cancer who discover that none of the hospital staff knows anything about the anti-ovarian-cancer crusade. They have no idea what the teal toenails are all about, or that the campaign even has a colour, let alone what that colour is. If someone sees a ribbon in teal, they assume it's a breast cancer ribbon that somehow came out in "the wrong colour".

Cross-section of ovarian thingammy in teal!

At this point I am beginnning to wonder if I should dress up as a giant ovary for Halloween and scare the living shit out of everyone. Take that, you pinko capitalist hypocrites!  Get your big ol' pink boobies out of my face!

No, seriously. I'm going as a witch this year (typecasting, obviously) and have been looking for makeup. Maybe I can mix blue and green together. Somebody has got to DO something so that this less-sexy but deadlier woman's cancer can get the attention and the funds that it deserves.

Flip-flop feet. . . IN TEAL!

(Post-post script. I just thought of this. Clarissa Pinkola-Estes, whose rather sappy book Women who Run with the Wolves was on bestseller lists for about four years, came up with a fantastic female equivalent for the male term machismo: ovarios.

I wonder why it never caught on.)

When your toenails match your flip-flops

It's not every day that a woman's toenails match her flip-flops.

Yesterday I wrote about a bizarre dream I had about ovarian cancer. Though doctors kept insisting I had it, no one seemed to be interested in treating it. They implied that I was being a hypochondriac for worrying about it and should wait until the pain became "unbearable" to begin treatment.

Was there more to this dream than I thought?

I've also written, at length (and how!) about the "pink" crusade against breast cancer (I almost said "for" breast cancer) and about how it has mowed down all other disease-related campaigns. I'm afraid it has, folks, with an oversaturation that is beginning to make me frankly sick.

Yes, we need awareness of the various types of cancer that women (and men, and children) suffer and die from. We need to campaign, but this aggressively? The breast cancer juggernaut has grown so formidable now that they can and do use the word "boobies" in their merchandise without any sense that it is insulting to women.

There is no comparable term for an ovary, yet when it becomes diseased, the outcome can be fatal. In many cases there are few, or even no symptoms. No x-ray, no blood test, not even a palpation to determine if you have it or not.

In my dream, the doctors sort of guessed at the diagnosis, then left me pretty much alone with it except for a useless, generic "support group".  It was a nightmare, of course. Now that I've had some time to mull it over, I think I can see why the "ovarian movement" has chosen such a strange emblem.

At first glance, it's odd. You're supposed to paint your toenails teal. I guess I'm an old stick-in-the-mud (and my toes are ugly enough to frighten small children), but I can't bring myself to do it. And I just don't see that many teal toenails around.

For one thing, they'd only be visible during flip-flop weather. That limits their visibility considerably. Older women might be a little reluctant. Though the campaign insists the teal polish is widely available, I wonder if that's true.

The truth is, this rather strange campaign is an attempt to survive the pink tsunami that has pretty much drowned other diseases. I also suspect all the other colours had already been taken.  A lot of men probably don't  know what the word teal means, and to me it's a sort of military color. It also has so many shades that it's hard to fix on it exactly (whereas, for some reason or other, pink is pink: a colour both innocuous, as in baby girls, and fluffily sexy, as in Playboy bunnies).

But you have to give them credit for trying something original. I'm afraid we've come to the point of  Not-Another-Charity Syndrome, and (as I wrote yesterday) ovaries just aren't as cute, fun, perky and sexy as (slim, attractive young women's) breasts. They scare us. They pump out hormones, spew out eggs. And they're even more dangerous when they STOP spewing out eggs.

And even if they are the source of life itself, which they are, there's an odd sort of stigma attached to them. They're reproductive organs, not bouncy fun sexual attractants hiked up into enticing cleavage by lacy bras. Ovaries aren't sexy. Think about it. See any irony here?

But boobs (sorry, breasts) mean. . . what? A sexual turn-on for men. (Come on, admit it.) A badge of youth, at least the perky high ones. Part of a womanly shape: i.e., at puberty these things just pop out, like it or not, and you have them for the rest of your life. They also mean, and many people think of this with disgust, the ability to literally feed and nurture a baby, to keep it alive with your own body. Do it, yes, but do it alone, in a dark public washroom or, better yet, at home.

So for some, the purpose for which breasts are designed is somehow disgusting. So the campaign must have decided to focus on the "fun" aspects of breasts, the cheerleaders with bouncy little tits, the tight pink tshirts with "provocative" slogans on them. The boobies.

Leaving the ovarian camp scrambling for something that hasn't already been taken.

I can't tell at this stage of my life if I'm going to get ovarian cancer or not. At this point it's a dread-word, sort of like "pancreatic": many people see it as a death sentence.

Meantime, on the pink front, the news is better. Early detection means you just might be able to keep those perky little organs and survive.

I wish the teal-toe brigade well, but there's something kind of strange about it, a contradiction: proclaim it, but at the same time keep it hidden.  The thing is, people are NOT going to ask you about your pedicure if you wear normal shoes, which most people in Canada do for 10 months of the year (and, around these parts, 11 or 12 months).  And the color (darkish blue-green) is, for most people, a little too goth to be flattering. Those who don't ask about it might wonder why you chose such an oddball shade.

I can hear the ovarian camp asking me: well, do you have a better idea? I'd include some sort of egg imagery, but people might find that just as disgusting as breast- feeding. Eggs? What does that have to do with ovarian cancer?

The body is the arena for cancer, and it can strike like a cobra and do its deadly business anywhere. North Americans have so much shame and disgust about the body that they must cloak diseases like cancer in terms that are, sometimes, downright cute. Makes it more palatable, somehow.

I'd like to see stats on how much these two causes bring in annually. It would probably cause ME disgust, but for reasons of my own.
(The following is from the web site.)

Raising Ovarian Cancer Awareness


The Story of Teal Toes
Scene: School bus stop, the week after Labor Day.
(Usual hellos, how's the school year going etc.)
Tori:Wow! New pedicure?
Susan:What color is that? Blue?
Carey:No, it's teal. September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and teal is the awareness color.
Judy:Gorgeous. Ovarian cancer? Isn't that what that new vaccine is for?
Carey:No, there is nothing like that for OC. In fact, it is often not diagnosed until the disease has progressed.
Tori:But I thought that is what we get a pap smear for!
Carey:Nope, there is no test for OC. The symptoms are often hard to see. They are:
  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)
Judy:I think a friend of mine's mother had that. She just thought it was a tummy thing until it was too late. Why haven't we heard more about this?
Carey:That's why I painted my toes! So people would ask!
Susan:Who did them?
Carey:That new nail place over by the theater. They carry all the OPI colors, including this special teal.
Tori:Hey, let's go tomorrow! Meet me there!
This "conversation" was compiled from the various conversations I had at the bus stop, gym, yoga class, a bridal shower and various other places this past September after painting my toes teal. There were many other teal toes by the end of the month.
Ovarian cancer is called the silent killer, it whispers. We have all been bombarded with information about breast cancer, it's time to extend this awareness to its "cousin", ovarian cancer (the "breast cancer gene" can also trigger ovarian cancer).
Ideas for a "Teal Toes" campaign:
  • September, Ovarian Cancer awareness month, is the perfect time for one last pedicure for a cure, and trying an "untraditional" color.
  • For most women, teal is an "untraditional" enough color that it does spark conversations, leading to further awareness.
  • While "untraditional", teal is nevertheless pretty!

This information is from the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance.